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District 11 and teachers union reach tentative agreement, starting pay could increase by 20%

Posted at 11:22 PM, May 18, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS — Starting pay for teachers in a Colorado Springs School District 11 may be going up next year. It’s part of a tentative agreement reached between a teacher's union and the district.

After nearly 2 1/2 weeks of bargaining over pay, the district and the teacher's union reached a tentative agreement on Tuesday. The superintendent said it was a win-win for both sides, but some teachers say more needs to be done.

The tentative agreement includes a starting teacher salary of $50,000, which is a 20% pay bump.

“When we looked at starting teacher salary, District 11 has traditionally been the lowest or the second lowest in the area,” said Michael Gaal, the superintendent for D11.

Plus all teachers will get a 5% cost of living raise, and a 6% bonus added over two paychecks. Gaal said with teacher shortages and vacancies, pay has to be competitive.

“It’s no longer about chasing after what neighboring districts are doing. It's about District 11 planting a flag, that says we believe that the secret to student achievement is the highest quality instruction with the highest quality instructors in the classrooms,” said Gaal.

The tentative agreement that was made is also a 16% net increase for teachers salaries across the board. Gaal added that the district made strategic choices in the tentative agreement to raise compensation in spaces and roles that are closest to the classroom.

However more experienced teachers like Lori Watson say the pay bump still isn't enough, and they should've gotten a 20% increase too.

“It should have been a reward for everybody, not just the younger ones to bring in $50,000,” said Watson. “A lot of your older teachers are your mentor teachers who have experience and have things to add, so they felt like it should go across the board.”

Another big point of contention early on was the district's proposed pay schedule. Disagreements on that even forced classes to be canceled at Doherty High School in early May. Watson was one of the teachers who didn’t teach that day too, to show support at the bargaining contract meeting.

“Teachers were against that. They got very upset and started going to the meetings and making sure that their voice was heard,” said Watson. “This is the first time that we've seen teachers that aren't union members, coming out to say we don't want this either.”

The proposed pay schedule will not take effect, but a task force will spend the next year studying how a structure like that would work.

Watson said compromises were made on both sides.

“In the end, I believe it was it was jointly decided and everybody didn't agree on everything, but we're okay about coming to the middle and finding a middle point,” said Watson.

“I think it's a huge opportunity and a huge win-win for all sides,” said Gaal. “I don't believe it was contentious whatsoever. It took many times for us to get to the space that we got to and we need to be more cognizant of that.”

The contract will apply to all D11 teachers even if they are not a part of the union. The proposed contract was presented to teachers tonight, and if they ratify it by next Tuesday, it goes to the school board to make it official for next school year.

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